In reference, to the article, ‘A challenge to Indian federalism’, published in the THE HINDU on 28th October 2013.
Jayaprakash Narayan of Lok Satta Party has made a controversial assertion that the decision of Union Government to ‘divide Andhra Pradesh’ without the consent of State Legislature ‘poses a grave danger to federalism and unity’. Here we establish the counterview that the current opposition by Seemandhra leaders to the separation of Telangana, through their convenient political maneuvers manifested in agitations by Seemandhra people, actually undermines Indian democracy. And contrary to the author’s claims, the current bifurcation is being done as per the prescribed methods in our Indian Constitution without any deviations.
The Constitution of India deals with various facets of a modern democracy, sometimes balancing the opposing goals. It tries to maintain the integrity of the country while allowing quasi-federalism. Indian Union was never intended to be an absolute federal country as JP Narayan likes us to believe. If it were, then any state in India, including those like Jammu & Kashmir or Nagaland, would have the right to secede from that union.
In addition to unity and quasi-federalism, there are other important ingredients of Indian democracy – for example, the right of one group of people to live in this country without getting suppressed by another group. To allow people of various groups and identities to thrive in this country, so that their freedoms and access to opportunity are protected, the Constitution of India has provided various methods and mechanisms.
Some of these methods include reservations to deprived castes, a mechanism devised to bring equality and justice to those who were subjected to discrimination in this country for many centuries. In the similar way, the weaker groups that were identified along distinct geographic delineations were protected from the onslaught of powerful regions through creation of states. Formation of states has been a complex process. The underlying basis was not the same for all states. Definitely, it was not solely based on ‘the fundamental principle of language’ as claimed by JP Narayan. The recent creation of states like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand are a testament to that.
And not all states were formed through recommendations of committees as JP Narayan contends. Andhra State was formed in 1953 out of Madras State going against the recommendations of Dhar and JVP committees. The separation was triggered by violent riots following the death of Potti Sriramulu who went on a fast. Telangana was merged with Andhra State in 1956 though the State Reorganization Commission (SRC) recommended to wait for two-thirds majority in the Telangana State Assembly after 1960 state elections. And Hyderabad State did not vote for the merger as claimed. Maharashtra and Gujarat were created in spite of the negative recommendation of SRC. And the states of Punjab, Haryana, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, and Jharkhand were not even discussed in SRC.
Also, not all state formations originated as a resolution for separation in the State Legislatures. In fact, the process followed by NDA government in the cases of Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, and Chattisgarh were a clear departure from all other prior state formations.
JP Narayan conveniently misinterprets the purport of Article 3 to suit his argument saying it was created to ‘integrate the 552 princely states’. The Constituent Assembly Debates (CAD) tells us a different story. In 1948, Prof. KT Shah proposed that the legislation constituting a new state from any region of a state should originate from the legislature of the state concerned. If this procedure had been approved, as JP Narayan proposes today, the power to decide the statehood of a region seeking separation would have been vested with the State Assembly dominated by the majority region. Shri K Santhanam opposed this proposal using the then demand of Andhra State as example. He said, ‘take the case of Madras Province for instance. The Andhras want separation. They bring up a resolution in the Madras Legislature. It is defeated by a majority. There ends the matter’. Dr. Ambedkar justifiably rejected KT Shah’s proposal citing how it would undermine Indian democracy. Thus Andhra State was created in 1953 paving way for another sixteen new states in this country.
A ‘negotiated settlement among stakeholders and regions’ is not a necessary condition for separation of states as JP Narayan believes. An amicable settlement can happen only when two regions agree for separation. In the prior cases in India, when the separation was inevitable, both the regions eventually agreed. But today’s problem in dividing Andhra Pradesh does not arise from the deviation of the process, but because of the emphatic and complete opposition of Seemandhra to the proposed bifurcation.
The current Samaikyandhra agitations are fueled by ‘convenient politics’ with a desire to continue the hegemony over Telangana. Even the so called ‘wise’ political leaders like JP Narayan are not able to see beyond their ‘primordial loyalties’. Recently, he traveled to Seemandhra to recklessly urge the people to rise up in revolt against the bifurcation.
There were ample opportunities in the last four years to pass the resolution on Telangana issue in Andhra Pradesh State Assembly. In spite of the repeated demands by TRS and BJP, the Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, backed by many Seemandhra leaders including JP Narayan, has consistently and adamantly disallowed any discussion on Telangana, averring that it is the prerogative of the Union Government to take the decision on Telangana. On the other hand, all major political parties of Andhra Pradesh, including Lok Satta Party, have made it amply clear that they are not opposed to the formation of Telangana hoping that New Delhi would dither from taking a decision on Telangana.
Now that the Union Government has taken the decision, JP Narayan and his ilk are opposing the formation of Telangana citing that State Assembly has not passed the resolution – a problem created by them in the first place by thwarting it for all these years. It is evident that the current problem is not emanating from weakness of Indian federalism but originates in politics of convenience and hegemony as practiced by Seemandhra leaders to further the ‘imperialist expansionist’ agenda as feared by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1953.
The decision to divide Andhra Pradesh is neither ‘arbitrary’ nor is it ‘unilateral’ as alleged. A broad consensus was actually achieved amongst all the political parties in India, including the stakeholders in the state of Andhra Pradesh, affirmed through letters, all-party meetings, committee reports and election manifestos, spanning over a period of nearly thirteen years. P. Chidambaram in a speech in Indian Parliament in August 2013, said: “In my experience, the most extensive discussions have taken place on Telangana formation.” If there is any ad hoc process that is gunning for ‘short-term electoral expediency’ it is the convenient U-turn politics taken by Seemandhra politicians, including JP Narayan.
He falls prey to the same fear psychosis created by Samaikyandhra activists who have raised imaginary fears to stall the formation of Telangana – that there will no food to eat, no water to drink, no jobs, and that their lands will turn into deserts. He compels the President of India to stop the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh saying it is being done ‘without consent, and without a negotiated settlement’. He raises an unsubstantiated fear that ‘India’s future will be in peril’.
A ‘negotiated settlement’ is not possible when one region decides to fight the division till the ‘last ball is bowled’. If that is the case, then it will be not be possible to achieve redress mechanisms for the contentious issues like privileged castes discriminating against deprived castes. Bowing down to the current opposition posed by Seemandhras to the division would seriously undermine Indian democracy. All future state creations would be held at ransom by the majority in the state refusing to allow the minority region to separate.
We are now witnessing the scenario as feared by the architects – Telangana and Seemandhra fail to reach consensus, all negotiations fail, and the State Legislature is dominated by unwilling and adamant majority. Here JP Narayan is right when he says that Parliament is empowered to ‘settle marginal boundary disputes between states when they are recalcitrant and efforts to reconcile differences and arrive at a settlement fail.’
It is evident that the current process for bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh is in tune with legal and constitutional provisions. JP Narayan, not realizing that Indian Constitution is a written one with prescribed procedures, demands that the President of India should convert the conventions followed by NDA government into law of the land.
Creation of new states using Article 3 & 4 has only improved India’s federal character while maintaining the unity. The mechanism designed by the architects of Indian Constitution to deal with a situation where the majority region could hijack the consultation process leading to an indefinite stalemate is now being used to solve the problem of bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh thereby proving the efficacy and strength of Indian democracy.
Separation of Telangana will be hailed as a great success of Indian democracy, wherein justice was meted out to people who have been clamoring for justice for over sixty years to escape from the tyranny of majority of Seemandhra.